Commentary

Under fire, Trump pick for Secretary of Labor withdraws

President Trump suffered his first defeat on confirming his cabinet this afternoon when his pick for the US Department Labor, fast food magnate Andy Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration following weeks of rising controversy over his background.  Puzder has come under increasing fire for his questionable labor practices, his failure to properly withhold taxes for his nannie, and disturbing revelations of assault on his ex-wife.

Puzder’s withdrawal represents a real win for workers, who have been heavily contesting his nomination since it was announced last month. As CEO of Hardees and Carl’s Junior, Puzder repeatedly refused to pay his frontline managers and workers enough to make ends meet—in fact, he even refused to pay his workers what he promised. His companies have faced dozens of fines from the California Department of Labor and a growing list of class action lawsuits around the country focused on his company’s unwillingness to pay his employers overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. In 2014, for example, a court found that Puzder had short-changed his employees by almost $20 million in unpaid overtime wages.

An astonishing 60 percent of the official investigations into Puzder’s labor practices have found that his company violated workplace safety and wage and hour laws—the laws that provide the basic, historically accepted legal requirements that employers pay their employees for the hours they’ve worked and ensure that their workplaces do not present a threat to their health and well-being.

Not only has Puzder made his fortune by cutting corners on his employees’ health, safety, and wages, he’s publicly and repeatedly talked in glowing terms about replacing his human workforce with robots. Try this on for size—he told Business Insider last year that he was considering firing his human employees and replacing them with automated systems, because

“[Machines are] always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Given that the USDoL is the federal agency designed to protect workers, Puzder’s nomination represented a clear case of the fox guarding the henhouse. It is undeniably good news for workers that he will not be Secretary of Labor.

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